Fallen Fruit of Del Aire: L.A.'s First Public Fruit Orchard
It was amidst these strands of spatial politics that Fallen Fruit of Del Aire was constructed. It took about two years for the project to come into being, from the call for commission to the construction. For David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit, the vision of a public fruit park dates back eight years to when they formed the collective. By the time their proposal for Del Aire was accepted by the county, the trio had already worked on a slate of projects, such as cooperative fruit tree planting in Madrid and Tijuana.
"One of the ways we think about a project is how you experience a place. We always use fruit, because it's nonpolarizing. It's a symbol of goodness. Everyone has a good memory of fruit," Burns says.
The element of play is another theme they explore in their art, which was why the designation of the fruit park next to a playground appealed to them so much. According to Burns, play invites collaboration as there are no rules. The idea was carried throughout the project, with components like the neighborhood fruit jam session in August 2012.
With no precedence in California, the artists found themselves working with a cross-section of agencies to navigate past city and county regulations. Twenty-seven types of trees and eight vines were eventually selected with the consultation of botanists, specifically chosen to thrive in the neighborhood of Del Aire. The actual scale of the installation expands outside of the park with 60 trees given to residents to plant at their discretion.
"The long view is that eventually the neighborhood will become used to the trees. May will come and they'll think apricots. July would be plums. In August, it would be peaches. We thought of using the trees as a way of thinking about a calendar," explains Burns.
The power of the edible art concept, for Ridley-Thomas, is how various manifestations of nutrition came together for the health of the community. The supervisor indicates there will be more projects to join the Del Aire Public Fruit Park, as well as community gardens in parts of L.A. like Florence-Firestone, West Athens and Lennox.
"The park is the next iteration of farmers markets. People are deciding for themselves that they want to build community in their space and learn more about their neighbors," says Ridley-Thomas. It gives people a sense of ownership, he says, creating community investors.
(Editorial note: This story reflects minor changes since its original publication.)
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